This morning I met and greeted one of my distinguished counterparts, Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary General of the European External Action Service, and accompanied him to the EESC’s External Relations Section where, in a meeting chaired by the REX President, Sandy Boyle (picture), he participated in a wide-ranging exchange of views. I was struck by Pierre’s words in his opening remarks about the importance of civil society aspects of foreign relations. Anybody doubting the importance of such aspects should look to the Arab countries and the Middle East as the best illustration, he said. In that context, he also spoke about the ‘huge treasure that we have and can build on with you’. The Committee’s external relations activities are perhaps less well known than its other advisory functions, but wherever the Union has foreign or trade relations civil society aspects must also be considered and in this context, as Sandy Boyle underlined (and as was also underlined in the Committee’s recent plenary exchange of views with trade commissioner Karel De Gucht), the Committee and its members are increasingly called upon to exercise a structural role.